from "The Tabernacle Experience"
Exodus 40:1-7. “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil.' 34-36 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.”
Outline. Chapter 40 concludes the book of Exodus. Chapters 35-39 include the meticulous details on how the tabernacle's furnishings are to be constructed from cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant down to the tassels on the garments priests will wear when ministering inside. Chapter 34 describes the new stone tablets bearing the 10 Commandments to replace the original ones Moses broke during the Golden Calf incident in Chapters 32-33. Assuming Mosaic authorship, Leviticus with its detailed account of the Law would have been given (or at least in its primary form) at or during the time at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Historical Context. The dating of the Exodus has been hotly debated. Scholars typically hold to either an earlier 15th BC or a later 13th BC century dating. The earlier dating takes the 480 years from the Exodus dedication in 966BC literally, indicating 1446BC, while the later dating sees the 480 years as 12 generations (of 40 years), but if actual generations were around 25 it would roughly indicate 1266BC. Depending on whether the earlier (and more literal counting) or the later date is preferred, Egyptian archeology of either Pharoah Thutmose III (early) or Ramses II (late) must be compatible with upheaval from the plagues and the Hebrew exodus. The dating chosen must also consider the dating of the prior patriarchs (either Middle Bronze I or Middle Bronze II) and the later Judges since the historical invasions Canaan of by Pharaohs Seti I and Ramses II are not recorded in Scripture. The exact location of Mt. Sinai is unknown, but doesn't impact the narrative.
Message Summary. God revealed via a theophany of smoke that the tabernacle would serve as the local of His manifest presence, shielding the people from His glory, as He stayed among them.
Dominant Theme. The presence theme is prevalent during the entire period at Mount Sinai. Moses met in the tent of meeting to meet with God “face to face” and received oral instructions on how to build the tabernacle. At the completion of the tabernacle a theophany of smoke covers it to confirm the tent's purpose as the “tent of meeting.” The entire concept of the tabernacle is to literally allow God to be present with Israel at all times without His glory destroying them.
OT & NT Correlation. Plans for the tabernacle, a mobile sanctuary, that would allow God to literally dwell among His chosen people is foretold earlier in Exodus 25:8, but is delayed due to the Israelite's disobedience. God's presence in the form of a cloud is seen primarily during God's interactions with Moses as they met in Moses' own tent outside the camp (Exodus 33:7). Once the tabernacle is constructed it becomes the center of the nation of Israel since it shielded the Ark of the Covenant. It led the way through the desert wilderness and was eventually set up at Shiloh in the Promised Land (where it may have been destroyed, but David refers to the Ark residing in a tent in Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 7:2). While the tabernacle is superseded by the Solomon's Temple, the purpose and pattern of the tabernacle remained, to house the manifest presence of God among the people. While no literal allusions are made to the tabernacle in the New Testament, Jesus is seen as the perfection of God's presence manifested among His people. In John 1:14, Jesus is shown as God's presence literally in Israel as “the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Since the tabernacle also served as the heart of the sacrificial system, where sin was atoned for and the passover lamb was slaughtered, Jesus is a natural perfection since He atoned for the sins of the World as the passover lamb. The book of Hebrew's claim that Jesus is our High Priest (serving in the tabernacle) requires familiarity with the terms and items of tabernacle/Temple, including the Ark of the Covenant's atonement cover (literally is translated “mercy seat”) and the throne of God. Jesus is shown as a king who provided heaven's mercy by “tabernacling” among us.